07 November 2015

Our blog has moved!

We are pleased to announce that "Along the Paths of Justice" has now been incorporated into a new Chab Dai International website!

New blog posts, news and reflections from the Chab Dai team will now be posted at chabdai.org/blog/

Take a look and we hope you keep following along!

Our new blog, located at chabdai.org

02 November 2015

Cultivating Community Heroes

We’ve been selecting and training Community Heroes from all over Cambodia since 2011, watching as they go on to train other members of their community on how to protect their family from traffickers, raise awareness about abuse and educate on human rights. As part of our anniversary series celebrating Chab Dai’s achievements, we talked to Nop Sen, Project Manager for the Community Heroes team…

Sen won a scholarship to study an ABA in English Literature with Asia HRDC before working in administration and human resources. He came to the Chab Dai via the then-called Doorsteps Project (now Charter-Doorsteps) and now decides budgets, coordinates activities and prepares crucial reports for the Community Heroes Team.

“A few years ago, I worked with a company but I think that they can only find support appropriate for their staff, they don't have time or opportunity to help the Cambodian people. I applied to Chab Dai as a Christian organisation but also I think that Chab Dai has a vision to help the Cambodian people without getting any profit or benefit from it. So I appreciate working here, because when I have experience or knowledge that I can share, I can get it out to the communities, the other people who lack information about this.”

Who are the Community Heroes?

For every province the CH Project works in, 10 heroes are chosen from existing trainer volunteers from the other two prevention projects (Safe Community and Ethnic Community projects) and, as Sen says, “often our heroes are on or know the local authorities so it’s easier for us to collaborate with them.”

“After we have worked with the villagers and heroes/heroines I think that most of the villagers in our target areas have more knowledge about how to deal with brokers, how to report from the helpcard that we [use to] provide the hotline, they know to call when they have a problem with a rape case in the community. We also do refresher training with the heroes, so they have more knowledge to get their point across, and are more confident when teaching the villagers.”

Sen (centre) & the Community Heroes team

Human trafficking prevention in the nick of time

This kind of community work can be really effective not only in preventing potential human trafficking cases, but in quickly dealing with them when they arise:

“One boy in the North-eastern provinces stuck the helpcard on the wall in his house as our hero explained to his school that they might need it for the future…When one of his sisters was taken to China and forced into marriage, she managed to call her father and tell him to call the number on the helpcard – she remembered seeing it on the wall. Her father called to the Case Support Team; they are now dealing with this case and the broker has been arrested.”

I ask Sen what he hopes to see in Cambodia in the next ten years in regards to this issue.

“According to our work with them, most local authorities have high commitment to help the villagers in their own community - I hope that for the next 10 years, NGOs, the government and local authorities are going to build strong relationships and continue to network together to help to abolish all forms of trafficking and abuse. This will be great for Chab Dai’s vision.”

10 September 2015

10 years of Chab Dai: Making a coalition work

The Learning Community project is a definitive part of the Chab Dai programme, being the core of all our coalition-building events, key member trainings and collaboration activities. But since #10yearsofChabDai is all about highlighting the projects and people who have been fundamental to our vision, it seemed like a good opportunity to check in with the LC and its current Project Manager, Um Sam Ol.

Sam Ol started at Chab Dai as a Media and Communications intern in 2010 and, five years later, oversees the member application process, the resource library and our bi-annual member meetings, as well as key trainings for our member NGOs.

“Part of my time is dedicated to screening organisations who apply to be Chab Dai members but we also run the bi-annual member meetings and different types of member forums: directorship, business, caregiver and HR. We invite participants who work in the same area of focus and face similar things and often one of them may have a success or a lesson to share or a tool or resource that can help the others to be successful.”


Managing a diverse and dynamic coalition

Being the glue that holds the coalition together is not always straightforward, it seems.
“Our 53 organisations are so diverse and dynamic and have their own focus and as we are the central body, it can be challenging to link up with all of them.” Nevertheless, Sam Ol has seen some great results of capacity-building in action:

“A project coordinator at an NGO based in Banteay Meanchey gave us some really positive feedback about our Child Protection Policy training. The organisation was trying to promote child rights in the community, but they often saw violence, or parents forcing their children to go to work to bring income for the family. After some staff attended our training, they got the knowledge and skills to go back to their staff and pass on the training. Then their staff could train the community and they saw a noticeable improvement.

"The community character has changed in the way they react to the children. They know how to protect children and know what to do when the children are being abused or exploited. We see that they are now respecting their children’s rights more and we saw a reduction of violence happening."
Participant, Child Protection Training

Changing attitudes

When I ask Sam Ol how the human trafficking situation has changed inthe last decade, he talks about a shift in attitudes, from focusing just on aftercare to taking a more holistic approach.

“In the early days, there were a lot of brothels and trafficking was really crazy and that’s why the shelters were needed. But later, the government realized that the best interest of the client is not living in the shelter but with their family. That is why now there is a shift to focus on family and community – a lot of organisations still offer care to the client but more community-based.

“And from the NGO perspective now, they’re not just focused on their own job, as before – they try to cooperate more because they believe that, working together, we can end this issue.”

The crucial contribution that the Learning Community team offers is support for services on the frontline, as Sam Ol says:

“Even though I work in the LC which is not directly benefitting the client, I serve in an indirect way, I can still be a part of it. With members who are working directly with survivors. This really inspires me to keep on going.”

Want to read more about the work of our different teams here at Chab Dai? Catch our interview with the Jeut Nung Dai team here, or take a look at our main website for more information.

24 August 2015

How will the ASEAN Economic Community impact Cambodia?

The end of 2015 is set to be the launch of the new single market in Southeast Asia, otherwise known as the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Ten countries in the region, including Cambodia, are expected to benefit from “the free flow of goods, services, investments, and skilled labor, and the freer movement of capital across the region.” (Nay Pyi Taw Declaration, May 2014)

But with the construction of the Greater Mekong Sub-Region’s special economic zones also coming to a close in the next twelve months, what are the implications for migration in the area, and how will this affect Cambodia?

Is Cambodia ready for the AEC?

The AEC is predicted to increase Cambodia’s real GDP by 4.4 %, its exports by 5.3 % and private investment by 24.8 %.

However, poor infrastructure in road, rail, ports, as well as the limitations of the local electricity supply and telecommunications pose practical problems, according to Hing Vutha’s report ‘Cambodia’s Preparedness for ASEAN Economic Community 2015 and Beyond.’ Bureaucratic and logistical costs currently make the export procedure in Cambodia lengthy and expensive.

Cambodia may also lag behind others in terms of education and skill, due to the low literacy rate (73.9% 2012) and the majority of workers still educated only to primary school level. Many may not be able to compete with other countries like Singapore and Malaysia in a single jobs market.

Movement of skilled and unskilled workers

According to the ARTNeT policy brief on ‘Moving Freely? Labour Mobility in ASEAN’, Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) will ensure standard qualifications are recognised in professions like accountancy and medicine across ASEAN, alongside the development of the ASEAN Qualification Framework. However, there is nothing in place for unskilled workers.

“By limiting substantial co-operation on labour market access to high-skilled labour, ASEAN members are missing out on the opportunities and positive developmental impacts from facilitating well-managed migration.”

AEC’s agreements The Movement of Natural Persons (2012) and the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) are inherently selective, the first created with businesses sending personnel overseas temporarily in mind, and the second applying only to those who are employed with a registered company. These do not include unskilled labour or people simply seeking employment or citizenship elsewhere, one of several points where the AEC differs from the Europe Union.

Helen Sworn on
'Preventing Slavery & Trafficking in Persons in ASEAN', Bali

Increased migration; increased vulnerability

The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) plans to facilitate trade between the six GMS countries (Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Laos, Malaysia and Thailand) are also gathering steam this year. 

Speaking on the subject earlier this month at the 8th Summer Institute in International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights in Bali, Indonesia, Chab Dai’s Helen Sworn has warned on the implications of Cambodia’s position in the midst of two new economic corridors that will essentially link China and India via Southeast Asia. ADB estimated back in 2004 that half a million trucks will travel through the region per day, which will increase the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDs as well as the risk of unsafe migration. Source communities will have fewer prospects and access to education as people move to economically stronger countries, with children left behind as parents migrate for work.

Human rights NGOs like Adhoc and NGOCRC have also warned that the ASEAN integration will lead to greater numbers of children in particular being trafficked or abused. Reported in Voice of America, Ya Navuth, head of the NGO Caram said:

“Children could also face more risk from economic pulls, experts warn. That includes families sending their children to work in other countries, where they will be vulnerable to abuse.”

How can Cambodia respond to the ASEAN and GMS changes?

Hing Vutha, speaking at the Chab Dai member meeting in May
The Migration Policy Institute report on ‘A ‘Freer’ Flow of Skilled Labour within ASEAN: Aspirations, Opportunities, and Challenges in 2015 and Beyond’ recommends ‘temporary schemes’ to expand the market access for low-skilled labours, creating legal channels to reduce irregular migration and ensuring sending countries be involved in monitoring the candidates before they emigrate.

Hing Vutha meanwhile, brings the emphasis back to education:

“Improving the education system should be the prime policy focus…Cambodia can benefit from the AEC since it can continue to import skilled labour from other ASEAN countries to tide it over this period of skills shortage. But over the longer term, the country should also focus on developing the skills of domestic labour so that it can reduce its dependence on foreign skilled labour.”

Though the ASEAN Convention on Trafficking in Persons and the ASEAN Plan of Action are expected to make positive steps on this issue before the end of the year, it’s clear that we and other organisations fighting to stop human trafficking in the region will need to maintain a coordinated effortto work across border lines, not just within one country.

05 August 2015

Coordinating our efforts against forced marriage in China

Every year, many Cambodian women are being sold a dream. It’s a dream of a better life in China: a rich husband, a comfortable office job, a world away from their provincial, and often poor, villages. In reality, brokers are working on both sides of the border to sell these women into marriages they find are far below their expectations, and into a life in rural China strikingly similar to the one they were trying to escape.

This issue is now being reported in the mainstream and international news, but Chab Dai have been dealing with cases such as these since early 2014. So how can we respond effectively to this growing problem?

A market for marriage

Reports blame China’s one-child policy for reducing the number of women in the country and creating a ‘market’ for men seeking a bride from overseas, wherein men often pay huge sums for a Cambodian wife. Across the border, prospective brides are approached by locals, even people they know and trust and are told that the money will go to their family.

But after the deal is done, the families rarely see the amount they were promised, and the women often end up trapped in an abusive marriage, in a foreign country where they may speak little of the native tongue. Passports are usually taken from them, posing a problem in itself, since train travel in China – a potential means of escape - requires valid ID.

How we help

Cases usually reach Chab Dai’s Case Support team via our helpline number, either from the women, the Cambodian Embassy in China or referrals from our partners. Chab Dai have managed to help repatriate 13 women from China, but coordination remains a problem. Even if the women make it to the Cambodian Embassy, they can end up stranded there for months or placed in a government shelter under sometimes unliveable conditions.

On a visit to China, Justice and Client Care Senior Manager Chan Saron commented:
“What we need is someone working on the ground, directly with the survivors. There is a gap for a coordinating organization between the survivors, the local Chinese authority, Cambodian embassy in China and government institutions and NGOs in Cambodia.”

Commitment to collaboration

Aware that this is an issue experienced by many of our partners and stakeholders, Chab Dai recently held a Round Table discussion aimed at sharing information and forming a collaborative response. World Vision, AIM, IOM and others were at the table with us, relating lessons learned and suggestions for the future.

We discussed the need for a centralised, Chinese hotline number that women can more easily access and shared ways we can better advise women on their escape routes, including how to get back their passports for the train journey, or travelling by alternate transport.

Together, we identified the most common areas these women usually come from, suggesting we could geographically target our prevention programmes to ensure key communities are informed about this issue.

The meeting closed with a series of positive action points, including working towards an MOU with the relevant government departments, as well as tackling the lack of funding by creating a basket fund between NGOs.

But the most important take-away was an ongoing commitment to collaboration. Only an organised effort between NGOs, the government and other key institutions will effectively handle, resolve and even prevent these cases from happening. Let’s hope the next few months and years will see those gaps on the ground in China filled, a more proactive and cohesive response from both sides of the border and more Cambodian women returned home safely.

Key source: ‘Trafficked for Marriage to China’ Case Support Project report, by Kristina Novak.

Images by Stephen Durham and Brad Collis, used under Creative Commons licence.

29 July 2015

Bridging the Gap

Chab Dai's long time staff member and co-founder of Chab Dai USA, Tania DoCarmo, is highlighted by University of California's School of Social Sciences as they report on her combination of experience in both academia and activism against human trafficking.

Reposted with permission from the UCI School of Social Sciences. See original post here.

Tania has worked for Chab Dai since 2006
For first year grad student Tania DoCarmo, the path to a Ph.D. has been anything but conventional. However, what her journey lacks in predictability, it makes up for in travels abroad, human rights work and practical, first-hand knowledge of human trafficking—her primary research interest. In fact, the sociology student’s proposed project on the subject recently secured her a fellowship through the National Science Foundation’s highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowship Program, which will fund her next three years at UCI.

Though her initial proposal to the NSF—involving a comparative study of humanitarian organizations in Cambodia and Ukraine—has been tweaked slightly, the focus of her current research remains rooted in the deeper understanding of counter-trafficking organizations. And after working for one such organization for more than nine years, she has some valuable insights.

DoCarmo’s interest in human trafficking is a direct result of her non-traditional route to academia. And though she has always loved learning, after her first year as an undergraduate at Biola University, she worried that she loved it a bit too much.

“I was sort of afraid that I was going to get stuck,” she explains. “I loved school, so I was afraid that I was just going to go to school and get married and never really go anywhere.”

So, the then teenager decided to drop everything and move to Brazil—much to the vexation of her parents—to participate in a humanitarian training program. It was in Brazil that she met her now-husband, and two years after she left the U.S., she set off on another life-changing adventure, this time to Cambodia. It was there that she met a woman who had recently started a group called Chab Dai, a non-governmental organization dedicated to uniting activist groups and ending sexual abuse and trafficking in Cambodia.

After volunteering with the organization for a short while, she eventually took on a full-time position, helping to research and implement effective training methods. It was during her time there that she noticed how distrustful activists were of researchers and journalists.

“Through that experience I just realized the gap that exists between what activists and organizations are doing and what academics are doing,” she says. “Historically, researchers from big universities would come over and want to interview victims and do their research and then you would never hear from them again. There was a lot of mistrust and a lot of feeling like they didn’t understand the context.”

Despite the skepticism, DoCarmo rediscovered her love of academia, took classes online to complete her bachelor’s degree and subsequently earned her master’s degree in anthropology while still working for Chab Dai. She felt that this bad blood between activists and researchers was doing damage to both sides of the cause, and she began to imagine combining her education with her passion and expertise for activism to bridge the gap.

“Getting my master’s degree reminded me how much I like academics and how much I believe in research. It really built my conviction that to do good work we need to understand what we’re addressing—and we need research to do that.”

So, after nearly nine years with Chab Dai and several moves back and forth from the U.S. to Cambodia, DoCarmo and her family made the trek back to California where she began UCI’s sociology graduate program in 2014.  

She is currently working on two research projects that have evolved from her research proposal to the NSF. The first, which she is working on in conjunction with Francesca Polletta, sociology professor, examines the use of storytelling and narratives within the activist community. As DoCarmo explains, there is sometimes a fine line between empowerment and exploitation, especially when the subject of a story may not be able to foresee all the potential ramifications of their participation.

“A lot of times, organizations will use a victim’s story to get donations or funding,” she says. “And while I see why people are doing that, my experience has been that stories can be very exploitative to the people whose stories you are telling.”

In addition to being manipulative, sharing a victim’s story can be damaging to their livelihood and reputation. DoCarmo explains that, in Cambodia, there is a very negative stigma associated with trafficking and prostitution. She has seen victims who are trying to move on with their lives be thrown back into a negative place when their community finds out that they had been sex workers. And there are even more sinister dangers—she notes that it is not uncommon for sex tourists to travel across the world in order to track down a woman that they saw in a documentary.

“Internally I’m still trying to wrestle with it, because I don’t think we should tell a victim what’s good or bad for them because they need to be empowered to tell their story if they want,” she says. “But we also need to be responsible for our part in it. So we’re interviewing organizations in the States and overseas and talking to them about how they’ve used stories—what’s been useful and what hasn’t been useful.”

In addition to this work, DoCarmo is also working on her own project that she hopes will help shed light on how human trafficking came to be a “new” social problem despite having been around for thousands of years. She believes that global interest in the issue became prominent after a 2000 U.N. convention that essentially coined “human trafficking” as a term.

She hopes to find out why, if trafficking has existed for centuries, was there a sudden explosion of concern about it. She’s seeking answers to her questions through archival research and hopes to, eventually, incorporate her work as a chapter in her dissertation, though that won’t be for several years. Her ultimate goal is to repair the bond between academics and activists in the counter-trafficking world, which she hopes will improve overall understanding of the topic.

“Sometimes when I read, there just seems to be a disconnect between how practitioners see a problem and how it’s written about in academia,” she says. “Through my research I want to reflect the practitioner’s view with the academic’s. I think together you have a better understanding.”

For now, DoCarmo is happy to be merging her two passions, academia and activism, while raising her two children with her husband. And with the NSF fellowship to help fund tuition and research expenses, she can spend the next three years focusing on how to make a difference.

—Bria Balliet, School of Social Sciences - See more at: http://www.socsci.uci.edu/newsevents/news/2015/2015-07-14-docarmo-trafficking.php#sthash.eBe2i3Mp.dpuf

21 July 2015

Training the next generation of Cambodian social workers

It’s been three years since the first Social Work majors in Cambodia graduated from university, fulfilling a very real need in providing human trafficking and abuse survivors with expert care and support. With this in mind, we thought it was time we checked in with our Jeut Nung Dai social work training team here at Chab Dai…

Prak Chantrea is the Assistant Project Manager for Jeut Nung Dai and a member of that ground-breaking class of 2012 himself, having earned his Social Work degree from Royal Phnom Penh University months before starting work at Chab Dai.

Building capacity in social work

So what does the JND team do day-to-day?

“We provide social workers with training related to direct social work and counselling practice such as basic and advanced counselling training, child development and parenting skills training, conflict resolution training, peaceful family training and more.

“This helps social workers to build their knowledge regarding strength-based and contextual approaches, and to improve their skills in listening, asking, responding and counselling.”

Chantrea told me that many of the social workers he helps to train are in fact survivors of abuse or human trafficking themselves, so having the support of the JND team is really valuable.
“This training also helps them to feel confident of doing their tasks with clients in the community. Some trainees have said they felt healed with their experiences because they had opportunity to express their feelings [to us] and reflect on their improvements.”

“The trauma-informed caregiver course was very important for me because I can now help my team and family. I also can share it to my community as well as I am able to help myself with trauma experiences.” 
Counsellor, ARM

Stories of hope

Although there are challenges still in the field of social work – “some organizations or managers do not give enough value to social workers, or do not know clearly what the practices are” – there is plenty to be hopeful about in Cambodia’s burgeoning social work sector.

“One organization which we worked with for a year runs a shelter for women survivors of human trafficking and sexual abuse.

“Most of their staff lacked knowledge and skills in their work field and they often did not have a social work degree or a relevant background. The supervisor requested our support in building capacity for her employees. JND provided them with training about case management and basic counselling, as well as a mentoring service for four months to support and encourage them to evaluate what they have learnt. We discussed the counselling process and cooperating between social worker, counsellor and house sister regarding cases.

"After we finished our support, the staff reported that they have improved their capacity and feel confident to deal with families and clients. They were also committed to continuing their learning.”

Chantrea explains that Jeut Nung Dai have also been responsible for organising a social work conference every year since 2013.

“The conference aims to strengthen networking and capacity-building of practitioners in Cambodia by sharing skills and expertise as well as discussing how to address certain challenges and difficulties encountered in their daily practices.”

Reducing vulnerability

Like many of Chab Dai’s projects, Jeut Nung Dai works to stop human trafficking and abuse through both direct and indirect means, as Chantrea affirms:

“We build the capacity of Chab Dai members and other staff, but we also go to the communities and sometimes provide direct counselling and group sessions. The main point is about reducing vulnerability.”

This seems an apt way to sum up not only the work of Jeut Nung Dai, but what Chab Dai is all about - empowering those working in counter human trafficking, and through this, reducing the vulnerability of Cambodian people.

21 June 2015

Collaborating with corporates in the fight against trafficking

The private sector as partners by Helen Sworn

Knowing our areas of core competency and influence have always been a foundational ethos and practice for us at Chab Dai. A decade ago when Chab Dai was set up as a coalition, there were few partners in the movement outside the NGO sector. 

However, during these years we have seen a new generation of stakeholders who previously had only been seen as the problem and not part of the solution. These partners are from the business sector and, although there is still a level of suspicion between the NGOs and businesses, there is also a growing collaboration emerging internationally.

Businesses supporting human rights

Monique Villa
This was evident at the recent Thomson Reuters Trust Forum conference in Hong Kong, which I was privileged to attend. Among the 200 attendees, more than 70% were corporate businesses - law firms, the banking industry, PR and communications companies, as well as government figures and journalists who are, at last, interested in reporting on the more complex, emerging and in-depth issues beyond the sensationalized media.

During the conference, these corporate representatives were put on the spot by the Thomson Reuters CEO, Monique Villa who had some innovative grassroots organisations present their needs. There ensued an open floor request for pledges of support from the attendees. I was fascinated and encouraged to see lawyers, design companies and others publicly commit their expertise to these causes. 

Stopping exploitation with multi-sector collaboration

Andrew Forrest
One of the keynote speakers was Andrew Forrest, an Australian mining magnate who stepped back from his corporate position four years ago to dedicate his time, energy and significant resources and influence to the anti slavery cause.  An interesting observation was how he started with his own corporation, carrying out a supply chain audit and calling out others to do the same.

Of course, we still have a long way to go but I think that we are beginning to take hold of the vision and need for multi-sector collaboration, which is the only way we will ever see an end to the exploitation of human lives.

Hong Kong image by Shizhao, used under Creative Comms licence. Other images courtesy of © Thomson Reuters.

14 June 2015

Christa Sharpe: '10 years of remembrance, thankfulness & celebration'

Cambodia is fortunate to have one of the most effective, unifying, impactful anti-trafficking and sexual abuse coalitions in the world – the Chab Dai Coalition. Well, I would say Chab Dai is the most effective, but I’m biased! International Justice Mission Cambodia (IJM) has been fortunate to be one of the original members of Chab Dai since its founding in 2005. I can’t imagine the anti-trafficking movement in Cambodia without Chab Dai.  Well, to be accurate, I was in Cambodia before Chab Dai existed, so I actually knew what the movement was like without Chab Dai, which increases my joy even more as we celebrate their 10-year anniversary.

The value of looking back

As member agencies with powerful missions, facing urgent needs and engaging with unimaginable violence, we often find ourselves primarily looking forward and focusing on the pain of this world. But, God is clear that we are also to live and serve in the disciplines of remembrance, thankfulness and celebration.

Remembering the faithfulness, gifts, miracles and progress from the past fuels us with hope in the midst of our current battles and circumstances. Practicing thankfulness brings peace and allows us to value others around us. When we celebrate the victories – large and small – we infuse ourselves and our teams with deep joy - a joy that would be impossible had we only focused on the deep pain and need around us.  

Human trafficking in Cambodia: 10 years ago

I remember what Cambodia was like the year Chab Dai Coalition started. I remember the thousands of children being openly prostituted in brothels that lined the streets of communities across the nation while traffickers, pimps and business owners were raking in money. I remember criminals and abusers who did not know the law, or what was right or wrong under the law. I remember dozens of pedophiles walking the streets holding hands with the children they planned to abuse, with no fear of being confronted or arrested.

I remember a decimated public justice system filled with officials who had almost no training to do their jobs, felt ineffective to stop crime, were not yet leading the anti-trafficking movement, and were sometimes even feared by the very people who needed them the most. I remember a citizenry who did not trust that their justice system could work for them, did not see the media advocating for their protection, and did not know the law or their rights under the law.

I remember a private aftercare system that was small, weak, uncoordinated, with almost no best practice procedures in place and extremely low survivor restoration rates. I remember NGOs who were not unified, not sharing or learning with one another, but were desperate for support.

The impact of coalition

I am thankful that the founders of Chab Dai saw the reality of violence and dysfunction, but had the vision to see what might be possible if they brought together like-minded organizations to provide shared learning, equipping, guidance and best practice models.

I am thankful that Chab Dai created a forum for us to learn from, share with, challenge, and encourage one another. I am thankful that this collaborative learning environment has raised private aftercare’s quality of service and protection to trafficking and sexual abuse survivors throughout the nation.

I am thankful for healthy accountability, that we, as members, value and embrace in order to be more competent, ethical, transparent, research-based and effective in our work. I am thankful for Chab Dai’s innovation and vision to bring unity to the movement in Cambodia and around the world through the Global Learning Community and the Freedom Collaborative. I am thankful that Chab Dai fills in vital gaps through their important research, hotline, community education, and working together with the government.

A time to celebrate

I celebrate all the miracles that have happened in Cambodia over the past decade. I celebrate that tens of thousands of Cambodian and Vietnamese citizens have been educated, trained, and empowered, and now courageously identify trafficking and abuse, report it, prevent it, and are growing in their trust that their public justice system will respond to their cries for help.

I celebrate the hundreds of police officers, social workers, court officials and community leaders who have been trained, equipped, and now confidently lead the fight against trafficking. I celebrate the new laws, policies and procedures that have led to greater accountability, government leadership and effectiveness. 

I celebrate that the combined efforts of the public justice system, community education, prevention programs and aftercare services have led to a decrease in prevalence of the commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the three provinces with the highest markets - from 15-30% of total sex workers in the early 2000s, down to around 2% today. And, the most significant decrease is the rate of young minors aged 15 and under in commercial prostitution - down to under .1%. Chab Dai members have been a part of bringing about all this change and progress, along with our government leaders and partners.

The impossible is possible

What seemed impossible 10 years ago has become possible. We can look back and see more progress, more miracles, and more lives restored than we imagined. When we choose to remember what was, we can see more clearly what is, which gives us hope for what can be.

We are all working to maintain and deepen the progress made in the fight against sex trafficking. We are just starting to grow the movement to end labor and marriage trafficking.  And sexual abuse and domestic violence are still at epidemic rates in Cambodia. But what we have all seen is that justice for the poor is possible.  

What has already been achieved in the fight against sex trafficking can happen – and at even faster rates – in the battles that lay before us, because lessons have been learned, the systems are stronger and the government is leading the way. And, as we have done for the past 10 years, we will do this together. In shared learning. In unity. In accountability. In coalition.

Seek the Lord and His strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles… Psalm 105:4-5a

What do you remember as you think back over the past 10 years?  What are you thankful for?  What do you celebrate?

Thanks to Christa for writing this guest post. You can find the latest news on IJM projects in Cambodia and more about the organisation as a whole, over on their main website, www.ijm.org.

'Hands' image property of Chab Dai. All other images provided by IJM. 

07 June 2015

The Chab Dai Charter goes online!

This week saw the official launch of our new Charter online database at the Chab Dai Charter feedback meeting here in Phnom Penh. Member organisations travelled from as far as Siem Reap and Battambang to show their continuing commitment to excellence, through the Charter’s set of professional standards in combating human trafficking and abuse. With this in mind, we’ve put together a short guide on everything to do with the Charter, how it works and how it can benefit organisations.

What is the Chab Dai Charter?

Chab Dai CharterChab Dai created the Charter in 2011 in order to give our members and ourselves a common set of 15 principles to work towards, grouped under four core values: Protection, Participation, Transparency and Collaboration.

Moreover, the Charter is designed as a practical tool, containing specific action points in order to achieve these principles. By self-evaluating on everything from encouraging creative thinking at work to being mindful of inclusion, we can continue to raise our standards as a coalition.

How is the Charter implemented?

The practical side of the Charter was actually created using feedback from our members. Charter-Doorsteps Team visit member organisations and guide the staff through a participatory process of self-evaluation, with each staff member scoring criteria based on how they think the organisation is doing. These could be provision of specific trainings, procedural points, like how to raise an issue about a senior member of staff or PTSD staff care for those dealing with trauma in their day-to-day jobs.
A report with Improvement Action Plans (IAPs) is then produced, based on the collected scores, which the organisation can use to identify strengths and implement changes where needed. Learning grants are also given to selected organisations that may need extra resources to complete the process and staff are also encouraged to share lessons learned at our training events.

The Charter database

The new database, designed by Rob Perrett, allows Charter members to record and update their information and assessments instantly online. It also enables NGOs to produce data for use in donor reports, with information already packaged into charts and recommendations, saving a lot of staff time.

Practical assessment tool - Chab Dai CharterWhat our members think

Reuk Saray of WEC and Bridge of Hope project told us about his experience of the Charter implementation:

“When I first started with WEC, no one introduced me to the Child Protection Policy – I just signed without knowing anything about it. Now, we understand the importance of what it is and how we need to protect children.”

Destiny Rescue’s Kimbra Smith also had lots of positive things to say about the Charter.

“Just spending time with other members, our staff benefit from hearing about other’s strengths and weaknesses. Once they have connected with other staff, they feel comfortable contacting them to ask questions or for resources. They then feel like they can hold their head up high and be proud of their development.”

The Charter around the globe

The Charter has proved so effective that it’s been used as a model for our partners in places as diverse as Costa Rica, Fiji, Indonesia and Thailand, with one team saying it was ‘the most practical tool for assessment they had ever used.’

The Charter has made a huge difference not only to our members but to us as well - Chab Dai was the first organisation to go through Charter process. To us, it means always striving for best practice when it comes to supporting survivors of abuse in all its forms, and doing this together as a coalition.

As one member said: “It’s not realistic that organisations can be perfect in every way, so we are very positive about the Charter – we show other members our IAPs to show them that we need to improve too!”

24 May 2015

Esther Pastores: ‘My motivation lies in supporting my Cambodian colleagues’

As part of our #10yearsofChabDai series, we asked Esther Pastores of World Hope International for her thoughts working in relief and development in Cambodia on and off for more than twenty years. One of our member NGOs from the very beginning, WHI Cambodia also celebrates a decade in the fight against human trafficking and exploitation this year…

Can you give us a summary of your work in Cambodia since the 1980s and how you came to the position of Country Director at World Hope International?

My initial experience working with Cambodians was in 1987- 89: coordinating mother, child health and community services in Site 2 South refugee camp, Thailand with Christian Outreach Relief and Development (CORD). Following this I had the opportunity to help establish primary health care programs in Kampot and Prey Veng from 1990-93, during the UNTAC era.

After a few adventures in other countries I returned to Cambodia in 1998 as Country Director with CORD and subsequently worked with Hagar Women’s Shelter as Operations Manager. I really came to work with WHI by default, having initially agreed to evaluate the assessment centre (AC) program, was then invited back to implement the 40 or so recommendations for improving the work. And I’ve remained with WHI ever since!

What is your motivation for working in the – often harrowing – field of human trafficking aftercare and prevention?

Speaking personally my motivation essentially lies in supporting my Cambodian colleagues, in whatever line of humanitarian work they are engaged. Over the years it has been a privilege and a joy to walk alongside and share in their learning.  At the AC my colleagues are the ones doing the real work of ministering to abused children – they are the frontline folk dealing with issues and restoring broken lives; I’m happy in the knowledge that by ensuring they are provided the best work environment possible, through strong team relationships, learning opportunities, adequate staff care, pastoral care (and benefits package), that this will ultimately contribute to an effective ministry.

What prompted WHI to join the Chab Dai coalition?

WHI and Chab Dai have very much ‘grown up’ together, both organisations this year celebrating our respective 10 year anniversaries. At one time our organisations shared a common office, as a result of which we developed close relationships between staff and shared knowledge of each other’s programs and priorities.

As Chab Dai, WHI believes strongly in the significance of partnership, shared learning, pooled resources and all the other benefits of working collaboratively – joining the Coalition was therefore a given for us.

How has Chab Dai membership made a difference to WHI?

The list really is quite extensive – from the different forums to the Charter project we wouldn’t have become the organisation we are today without Chab Dai’s input. Personally I have found the various research projects commissioned to be particularly helpful. One may often have hunches about certain aspects of the work, but research really provides the evidence needed for developing sound programs.

What changes have you seen – both on the ground and governmental – to do with the human trafficking issue in Cambodia since 2005?

Probably these are best summarised in the Journey of Change documented by Chab Dai in 2013 – I would say a growing maturity of organisational capacity, but also perhaps a waning emphasis on real engagement between partners.

And what changes do you hope to see in the next ten years?

Better education systems, especially for girls; more jobs and opportunities, particularly in rural Cambodia, to lessen the need for migration.

Thanks to Esther for talking to us. If you want to know more about World Hope International and its work, take a look at their website here.

Images provided by World Hope International.

18 May 2015

Rohingya crisis: migrant status does not alter human rights

The sad story of the Southeast Asian migration crisis has saturated media publications across the world this week. Yet the issue continues to be unresolved, meaning the people crammed on boats with no food supplies and in often abusive conditions continue to drift between the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea, and between countries who continue to turn them away.

Along with migrants from Bangladesh, the current crisis in a large part involves the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, fleeing a harsh and violent life in a country which refuses to acknowledge their ethnic minority status.

Reportedly, the government of Malaysia has told the Rohingya to ‘go back to your country’. There have been similar reactions in the rest of the region. But how can this be the response, when Rohingyas effectively have no country to call their own?

Unrecognising the Rohingya

According to recent field research by Queen Mary University, London, conditions in the Rakhine State - home to the minority Muslim population of Myanmar – are tantamount to genocidal, and have been escalating since the 1970s.

The Rohingya face restrictions on education, movement, land rights – conditions which lead to extreme poverty, starvation and death. Outright persecution has reached a head in recent years such as the riots at Sittwe in 2012, 200 deaths there the result of clashes between Rohingya, the Myanmar army and police.

Despite the dangers of migration, for many Muslims who leave the predominantly Buddhist shores of Myanmar, it’s an escape, not a choice.

Refugees face ‘maritime ping-pong’

This past week has seen eight boatloads of migrants found in the waters off Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Myanmar and thousands of people displaced with nowhere left to turn. Almost half of those migrants are children aged 12 and under.

Described as ‘a game of maritime ping-pong with human life’ by the International Organisation for Migration in Bangkok, nation after nation has declined responsibility for people discovered in their territorial waters. UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon has called for Southeast Asian leaders to uphold international human rights and refugee laws to avoid these ‘pushbacks’ which are likely to lead to more deaths out at sea.

Human traffickers take advantage

Ban-Ki Moon
Brokers and people-smugglers who ferry migrants to places like Thailand and Malaysia have been taking full advantage of the stalemate out on open water. Crack-downs on immigrants at the Thai border have prompted some traffickers to simply abandon their human cargo. Others are holding refugees on board or in Thai camps until their families can pay for their onward journey or even pay to have them returned home again, so rendering their efforts futile.

This is likely to continue, as long as authorities consider migrants and trafficked people as criminals to be dealt with using blanket actions, rather than individuals, each with fundamental human rights.
So where does the answer to the crisis lie? In challenging Myanmar’s oppressive system, one that continues to break down Rohingya rights and communities to keep them disenfranchised and powerless? In deciding who is ‘to blame’ for the boatloads of people dying as they become trapped in oceanic limbo?

There remains no clear-cut solution, not at least until nations take responsibility for the fellow human beings involved and begin to co-operate with each other, instead of passing the burden. It was Martin Luther King that said ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ and countries like Ecuador and the wider Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reflected this as they offered support last week.

But in light of factors like Australia’s unapologetic ‘stop the boats’ policy influencing global attitudes towards displaced people, not to mention the similar crisis in Mediterranean Europe, it seems a small hope that someone will make the braver gesture, and welcome the boats in.

Images from the public domain and The Official CTBTO photostream, via Creative Commons.

12 May 2015

Celebrating 10 years of collaboration

It was Thursday May 7th 2015 and almost exactly 10 years since the very first Chab Dai member meeting took place in June 2005

Chab Dai staff were assembling, dressed in their finest traditional sampot, and attendees from many of our 53 member organisations were arriving at the ICF conference rooms in Phnom Penh.

Here at Chab Dai, we wanted our first Bi-Annual Member Meeting of 2015 to be as joyful an occasion as possible, so there was a photo booth on hand, ready with sequins and all manner of fun props to pose with.

The day’s sessions began with a warm welcome from founder and International Director, Helen, who also presented a 10-year timeline of Chab Dai’s history, staff and national/international events over the last decade (available to view here).

“It’s exciting to see the expansion of Chab Dai. At the beginning it was mainly expats but today’s meeting has many Khmer participants, which is great to see.” 

Sheila Reid, Advisor for EFC

Next, Sue Taylor from Hagar shared her take on collaboration - everything from building professionalism together to thinking about long-term, trauma-informed care - while Christa Sharpe of IJM counselled on the importance of stopping to celebrate our achievements, despite the ongoing struggles we may face in the anti-trafficking field.

Members were invited to add their thoughts to our hand-themed comments board, while those who made it upstairs promptly for the coffee break got first pick of the fantastic spread of Bloom cupcakes, complete with a Chab Dai twist. Of course, networking is what Chab Dai is all about so we couldn’t pass the opportunity for a session of speed-networking before lunch as well.

“I love the sense of community and working as part of a larger team,” Ruth Larwill, Bloom

The afternoon began with a strong performance from theatrical group EPIC Arts, delivering a powerful message for society to see ability, not disability.

The theme for this part of the day was looking to the future. Vutha Hing from Cambodia Development Resource Institute gave an update on the forthcoming ASEAN Economic Community, while Helen took the floor once more to talk about what economic integration will mean for the Greater Mekong Sub-Region – and the trafficking issue. Many of our partners and members also gave updates on a diverse range of subjects, from LGBT-Christian dialogues to new research on youth access to pornography.

Reconvening for Day 2 of the Member Meeting, participants were given a choice of workshops. I spent an informative few sessions learning about the great migration-prevention training schemes run by Samaritan’s Purse, insightful research on attitudes towards trafficking from within the church community by Sophorn Phong, Hannah Sworn and Love 146’s Glenn Miles, and a look at the nuanced level of care delivered to special needs survivors by ARM.

“The more we share education and resources, the more we are effective…there are so many unique gifts here that I don’t have to be an expert on everything,” Judy Norman, Mercy Medical Clinic

The two-day event managed to cover a good deal of lessons learned from the past, with equal weight placed on what we’re looking forward to and need to be ready for in the future – and a healthy dose of celebration. So a big thank you to everyone who attended and here’s to the next ten years…!